Thanksgiving is this Thursday. I personally can’t believe how quickly another year has flown by.
Seriously, it seems as though it was only yesterday that we were all gathered around the TV on New Year’s Day watching the Rose Bowl during the College Football Playoff.
(By the way, this year’s playoff will be held on Sat. Dec. 29, so make your plans now.)
At Thanksgiving, we pause momentarily to reflect on what we’re grateful for over the past year.
As fans of mixed martial arts, we have plenty to be grateful for this year, so before you continue with this article, prepare a plate of food (turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and maybe something from the relish tray if your family has one of those.)
Okay, you’re probably back now, so let’s begin:
ESPN’s deal with UFC
First and foremost, we’re thankful as MMA fans for the UFC’s new television contract with ESPN. Beginning in January, ESPN and its associated properties will be the exclusive television home of UFC, replacing FOX after seven years.
Under the terms of the deal, ESPN and ESPN+, the network’s subscription-based digital streaming platform, will air and/or stream a guaranteed 30 UFC Fight Night cards per year during the contract’s life.
In the first three months of 2019, ESPN and ESPN+ will combine to air and stream eight such events, with three events being pay-per-views, accounting for 11 consecutive weekends with a UFC event.
DAZN Streaming Exclusive Bellator Cards
Continuing with the streaming video theme, DAZN has been under contract with Bellator MMA to simulcast and stream the promotion’s cards for several months.
This includes streaming exclusive Bellator MMA events from time to time, as was the case in September when Bellator 206, an event marred by Peppa Pig episodes preventing the live broadcast of the main event in the United Kingdom, was exclusive to the property.
On Dec. 15, Bellator MMA will again be exclusive to DAZN, with Bellator 215 streaming live at 10 p.m. EST, 7 p.m. PST, 5 p.m. HST on the platform.
UFC Finally Acquiring Ben Askren
In October, after years of pursuit of welterweight Ben Askren, UFC and Singapore-based ONE Championship completed an unprecedented trade. The UFC acquired Askren from ONE Championship. In exchange, UFC sent former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to ONE.
As mentioned previously in my opinion column regarding the trade, although neither fighter has made his initial appearance in either promotion, I think it benefits both UFC and ONE.
(UFC did, however, announce that it was eliminating its men’s flyweight division at the close of the 2018 calendar year a few weeks after the trade was completed.)
Kayla Harrison Joining PFL in 2019
During the inaugural season of the Professional Fighters League, Kayla Harrison competed in two women’s showcase fights, with a third planned for the Dec. 31 PFL Championship event.
Harrison won both of her appearances (first-round submission- armbar and second-round TKO, respectively) and was able to parlay her victories into a full-fledged contract in the PFL’s second season next year, competing in the promotion’s Women’s Lightweight division.
There’s no doubt that Kayla Harrison will become the new face of women’s MMA in the years to come, I think.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Don’t eat too much.
(NSFW due to language.)
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